THE owner and operator of the Hayling Ferry have been landed with a fine of more than £12,000 after admitting carrying more than twice the number of passengers than permitted – on four occasions.
In January and February this year up to 27 passengers were seen to get off on the Hayling side off the route. The legal limit for the open vessel, Tina Maria, is 12.
At Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court today the Maritime and Coastguard Agency also brought two charges of not having sufficient liferafts for the number of passengers.
Frida Edwards admitted all six charges on behalf of the company, as company director, and Geoff Oliver, the former operator, also admitted all six charges.
On all the occasions, the vessel had inadequate lifesaving equipment for all the adults and children on board - Tina Maria carried four adult lifejackets, 12 child lifejackets and had liferaft capacity for 18 passengers and crew.
Captain Amir Esmiley, surveyor-in-charge at the MCA’s Southampton Marine Office, said: ‘There was a clear lack of concern for the safety of passengers which was made worse as the majority of people on the four crossings were children.
‘The limits on the number of passengers that can be on a vessel are there to ensure that everyone has a proper lifejacket and a place in a liferaft.’
In mitigation Oliver said he was left with a stark choice of taking the children across or leaving them alone, on a dark winter’s night, on a pontoon at Eastney without shelter.
The ferry was originally a troop carrier which was capable of taking up to 50 troops at a time.
Oliver, who had been the operator for three years, has been dismissed by the company.
He was today fined £900, plus costs of £400 and must pay a victim surcharge of £20.
Edwards, 54, was fined £600, plus costs of £300. She also has to pay a victim surcharge of £20.
The operator of the Tina Maria, Hayling Ferry Ltd, was fined £6,000, plus costs of £4,000. The company will have to pay a victim surcharge of £100.